The first reading for this week’s E100 is from Genesis.
Creation: Genesis 1:1-2:25
What do you believe about God? Who is God?
What I find to be the most interesting about Genesis 1:1-2:25 is that we basically get the story twice. Like the Gospels of Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John give four unique accounts of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, what happens at the beginning of Genesis is two unique accounts of how the world as we know it came into being. At the center of this is God. “In the beginning when God created” indicates that God was already there before anything was created—God played a hand in putting together the heavens and the earth, light and dark, oceans and animals, and then humankind. In verse 26, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.”
Notice anything unusual about this statement? “Us” and “Our”? Is there one God or many God’s in heaven who are responsible for creation? This could be a Trinitarian view of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It could be, as some opposed to the trinity would argue, that God is speaking of himself majestically as if he were a king. Others suggest that he’s with the angels and part of our image is from angels, but angels don’t create—they aren’t God. And who is God in the first account of creation? If we are in God’s image, does that mean that God looks similar to us?
Why do we get a second story? What is happening in Gen 2:4b that is different than what precedes it? We get the details on how God creates man and woman. First, the LORD God (not just God, notice the difference in how God is identified) creates a man. Man gets a garden and food, a river. But in verse 18, the LORD God realizes man shouldn’t be alone—and he does something. The LORD God makes him animals. But they aren’t suitable partners. The LORD God has an idea—I’ll (not we’ll, just a singular LORD God) make him a suitable partner. With the man, the LORD God formed him from the dust of the ground and then breathed into him. With the woman, the LORD God uses the man to create—takes his rib to make woman. And the man names the woman. The LORD God is not solely responsible for how everything is created, the man gets responsibility to name the animals and woman.
Why is there such a discrepancy between the two creation accounts? What does this tell us about God?
As Terry Fretheim wrote in Pentateuch, the purpose of the narratives are not easy to clarify. These were written by God’s chosen people after many generations of being passed along orally. The purpose of the story, which is similar in many religions, is to be theological and kerygmatic—proclaiming the witness to God’s role in the lives of the Israelites.
Walter Brueggemann, in his book Interpretation: Genesis observed that Gen 2:4b-25 (and further, including the “fall” story) are the most used, but also the most misused—misinterpreted, misunderstood, texts in the entire Bible.
What does this tell me about God and who God is? It shows that there is a lot of ambiguity, a lot of room for interpretation, and a lot of room for people to take this part of the Bible literally. The hard part for me in taking it literally is that, right off the bat, there seems to be contradiction. We have an account of an all powerful God who does everything alone (or at least, as one God-self that speaks in the plural). Then another account in which the man is a helper, assisting LORD God in naming.
You can’t have it both ways, can you? There are Christian evolutions who are able to see the power and miracle of Christ over time. There are atheists who believe that this story of Creation contradicts a Christian point of view and thus, God cannot exist—the universe and all that is around us just happened—random chance, Big Bang, slow, gradual, change.
What does this all mean to me? God is all around us. God is continually creating and we continue to evolve and participate in God’s creation. We are actively making the world into what it is. My image of God is not of a figure or a older man with a long gray beard. God is out there, but like all the wonders of God’s creation, we are left to wonder what exactly that means. I don’t have all of the answers and I don’t think anyone can provide a proof that shows God doesn’t exist. What I’m left with is faith. Faith in what I don’t know with exact certainty, but faith is seeing what’s around me and believing that God created it with love, with hope, and with excitement—this creation is beautiful and should be cherished by all of us.